Easy runs & rest
The easy run and recovery run is an important ingredient in a training programme.
Why do easy runs?
Easy runs are a good way for long distance athletes to build endurance. Shorter and less demanding of time than the long slow distance run, they enable you to put more miles on your legs without tiring yourself out.
A particular form of easy run is the recovery run, which follows a hard training session. Some elite athletes who run twice a day will follow a morning track session with an evening recovery run. For the rest of us, a recovery run is usually the day after a hard training session.
The key to training is recovery – your body does not adapt while it is under stress, but afterwards when you are recovering. This recovery and adaptation can be enhanced by gentle exercise which helps to clear the waste products out of the muscles and increase the blood flow. After a hard session or a long distance run, it is better to do a recovery run the following day than to rest completely.
How to do easy runs and recovery runs
Easy runs are typically about 3 – 6 miles. (Recovery runs should be at the smaller end of this range, lasting around 20-30 minutes.) They should be shorter and faster than a long slow distance run. For experienced runners, they are run at about your marathon pace, or a bit slower. The pace should feel comfortable and you should be able to talk in full sentences easily.
The main risk with recovery runs is that you will run too hard, and so give your body insufficient opportunity to recover. You may want to leave your watch at home, so that you are not tempted to push yourself too much.
Probably the most important ingredient in the training cookbook is rest. It is when you are resting that the body rebuilds muscles and joints, and adapts to the demands it has to meet.
As you increase your running, you are likely to need more sleep. When you are training hard, reckon on an extra hour a night of sleep, especially if you are currently getting less than seven hours a night. This extra sleep is a considerable time commitment on top of the time you spend running, and needs to be taken into account when deciding how much training is feasible for you, given the other things you want to do.
Apart from extra sleep, you need to make sure you that you are getting enough rest between hard sessions. Never do hard training sessions (e.g. intervals, hills or threshold runs) on consecutive days – you need a day in between to recover.
Over longer time horizons, as we shall see in the next chapter, you should aim to have an easy week once a month, in which you cut back your training volumes. You should also aim to have an easy month once a year in which you switch to other exercises such as swimming and cycling, and either don’t run at all or run only gently as you feel inclined without a watch.